GREENVILLE, Ill. -- With their season-opening Midnight Madness event in the books, it's clear that the start of the 2010 season is right around the corner for the Greenville College men's basketball team. There is no question that this year will look much different than the 2009-10 campaign.
The obvious and most glaring change to head coach George Barber's team is the absence of 2009-10 SLIAC first team all-conference selection LaPhonso Ellis, who has been the leader of the Panthers for the past two seasons. As Barber states though, there are many other things that are new about the team this year.
"We have some huge changes with this group of guys this year as we have brought in 21 new players [with] 13 of them freshmen. We also have 15 returners on the roster [for] a total of 36 guys on campus here for basketball," said Barber. "We also have a great staff to coach all of these guys with Stephen Groves '10 and Christopher Simmons '08 joining the staff as graduate assistants. They are also alumni of the program. Jim Butts and Chad Ambuehl '99 will also be assistants on my staff as well."
With all of the new faces on the team, it's worth noting that there will be three types of games played this year, with a schedule consisting of 25 varsity games, 16 junior varsity games, and 14 freshman squad games. Most of the 13 freshmen will see plenty of time in the freshman and JV games, but some of the other newcomers will look to contribute at the varsity level.
The varsity lineup will have many familiar faces with seven seniors on the team and three juniors all looking to see some action for Greenville.
"This senior class is great and is filled with leadership on and off the court," said Barber. "We talk about the 'Big Time' philosophy on the team and that entails sportsmanship, respect for our opponents, officials and teammates, and just really making this experience about so much more than basketball. All seven seniors embrace this philosophy and it's huge for our team!"
Seniors Andy Traeger, Obinna Agomo (2009-10 All-SLIAC Defensive Team), Rashod Seaton, Joel Pezzelle, Jonas McBride, Richard Ndembe, and Coleman Chambly all bring something entirely different to the court. Regardless, the seniors and the rest of the team have one main goal in mind, although it might not be what everyone expects.
"Our number one goal is to compete in such a way that we are honoring our school and each other," said Barber. "We are representing Greenville College, God, and ourselves. Now, with that being said, we want to compete in the SLIAC conference and make it to the NCAA tournament, but if we do this and we aren't honoring this school, God, and ourselves then we haven't done our job."
The job of being a top four team in the conference and making the NCAA tournament will be tough this year as Eureka College, Westminster College, Webster University, and MacMurrary College all look to compete along with the Panthers. Coach Barber and the team look to crack the top four though with their on-the-court talent and deep team philosophy this year. The season starts in November, and there is no doubt that the crew will be more than ready when it's finally time to start down the road toward the NCAA tournament.